Fed Cup Tampa. Preview

Team USA. Coco Vandeweghe, Lauren Davis, Shelby Rogers, Bethanie Mattek-Sands. © Susan Mullane

Team USA. Coco Vandeweghe, Lauren Davis, Shelby Rogers, Bethanie Mattek-Sands

 

TEAM USA
#23 Coco Vandeweghe
#35 Lauren Davis
#48 Shelby Rogers
#1D Bethanie Mattek-Sands

TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC
#38 Katerina Siniakova
#57 Kristyna Pliskova
#107 Denisa Allertova
#114 Marketa Vondrousova

 

There is no debate. When it comes to the women’s game, the most mythical tennis Mecca over the past decade has been the Czech Republic. Petra Kvitova. Karolina Pliskova. Barbora Strycova. Lucie Safarova. The Czechs have won the Fed Cup title five out of the past six years. This weekend marks their ninth consecutive World Group Semifinal. Domination.

Interestingly enough, the Czechs come into this weekend’s Tie at Saddlebrook Resort and Spa without their top talent. Petra Kvitova is still recovering after fending-off a knife-wielding home invader during the off-season. Karolina Pliskova, now the World #3 with two titles already this year, elected to stay in Europe to prepare for the clay swing. Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova made the same call, leaving the door open for 38th-ranked Katerina Siniakova and 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova – who won her maiden WTA singles title last week in Biel, Switzerland. Karolina’s twin sister Kristyna and Denisa Allertova round-out Captain Petr Pala’s squad.

Team Czech Republic. Marketa Vondrousova, Denisa Allertova, Kristyna Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova. © Susan Mullane

Team Czech Republic

The Czechs are second only to the United States when it comes to Fed Cup success. While the Czechs own 10 Fed Cup titles, the United States has won the World Group 17-times dating back to 1963. Team USA has struggled in recent years. Since reaching back-to-back Finals in 2009 and 2010, the Americans have continually fallen out of the World Group. With February’s “anthem-tainted” victory over Germany in Maui, Team USA earned a spot in the World Group Semifinals for the first time since 2010.

In her first year as Team Captain, Kathy Rinaldi chose green clay for the Tampa Tie, and brought along World #23 Coco Vandeweghe, #35 Lauren Davis, #48 Shelby Rogers and 4-time Grand Slam Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands…

Coco had a rough March, falling in her first matches at both Indian Wells and Miami; but enjoyed a career-best Semifinal run at the Australian Open before winning both of her singles matches over the Germans in Maui. Lauren Davis is enjoying a break-through season after earning her first WTA singles title during week-one in Auckland. She’s since reached the Quarters in Doha and Dubai, and the Round of 16 at Indian Wells. Encouragingly, Shelby Rogers is coming off a Quarterfinal green clay run in Charleston, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands just keeps on winning. The doubles World #1 has earned three titles this year alone, including Bribane, the Australian Open and Charleston.

ACE is back to show his support for Team USA at Saddlebrook Resort and Spa this weekend

Team USA Mascot ACE at the Draw

On paper, stat-to-stat, all cards favor the Americans; but you can’t discount Katerina Siniakova’s determination and Marketa Vondrousova’s momentum; not to mention Kristyna Pliskova’s doubles talent. Siniakova, like Davis, won her first WTA singles title in week-one of the season. She earned it with wins over Simona Halep, Johanna Konta and Alison Riske in the Final.

The United States owns a 9-2 Fed Cup record versus the Czech Republic. They last played in the 2009 World Group Semifinals where Alexa Glatch threw-down the heroics for Team USA, defeating both Petra Kvitova and Iveta Benesova in her singles rubbers. Bethanie Mattek-Sands then teamed with Liezel Huber to clinch the Tie in the 5th and deciding rubber.

The Semifinal starts tomorrow morning at 11:30 on stadium court as I host a clinic with 6-to-11-year-olds from Clearwater’s Henry L. McMullen Tennis Complex, then we’ll roll right into the Opening Ceremonies. Ball-up is scheduled for 12:08p live on Tennis Channel.

 

The Draw. USA vs. CZE. World Group Semifinals

R1: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) v Marketa Vondrusova (CZE)

R2: Shelby Rogers (USA) v Katerina Siniakova (CZE)

R3: CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) v Katerina Siniakova (CZE)

R4: Shelby Rogers (USA) v Marketa Vondrusova (CZE)

R5: Mattek-Sands/Davis (USA) v Allertova/Pliskova (CZE)

 

The Official Dinner. Saddlebrook Resort & Spa

Team USA's pretty excited to be in its first World Group Semifinal since 2010. © Susan Mullane

Team Czech Republic. Whatever you do Petr...don't smile. © Susan Mullane

Team Czech Republic. What's the point of getting decked-out if you're not going to take a selfie? © Susan Mullane

World #1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands...being Bethanie. © Susan Mullane